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Tour Stage 18: Return of the Flats 3 — Too Many Sequels is Never a Good Thing

Trie-sur-Base — Pau (171km)

Le Tour 2010 - Stage Sixteen Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

If one were to read through all my articles on this website (I have no idea how many there are. Three, four hundred? However many, I wouldn’t envy them the task) I think tolerance is not a word anyone would associate with them — after all, I’m not exactly shy about showing my annoyance. Yet if I had to isolate one pet peeve about this sport, one little thing that really bugs me, if would be this — flat stages in the middle or end of the last week of a Grand Tour. I’m not talking about the parade stages, those are beyond protest, no matter how much those farmers might try. I’m talking about stages like this. I am not an expert in the geography of the Pyrenees. I am, however, someone with a reasonable grasp of deductive reasoning — like so: There are mountains in the Pyrenees -> the race is in the Pyrenees -> the race is in the mountains. It makes absolutely no sense to me that the race would get one of the much-reviled transfers out of the Pyrenees for this pointless parade to Pau (a place with deep pockets for the Tour de France) before getting another transfer back in for stage nineteen. Surely the better remedy would have been to de-mountain the awfully-designed stage sixteen and use stage eighteen to have an actual effect on the race. Anyway, that’s not the point, we’ve been dealt a hand so let’s have a glance at it.

It’s, er, a flat stage. There’s a couple of terrifying cat. fours. There’ll be a cross-tail wind for sixty of the final seventy kilometres, so a bit of vigilance might be required. However, it’s unlikely to be strong enough to break up the race.

I can’t speak for the strength of Amy’s wine choice, but I’m sure it’s delicious — Vignobles Arbeau Negrette On l Appelle 2015

Back to Negrette! In Fronton the principle grape is Negrette, and the appellation’s decree is that each Fronton wine be at least 50% of the variety.

So as for most flat stages, it’s reasonable to expect a sprint victory. That I do not believe will happen. I went through a list of who might chase in Return of the Flats 2. It has shrunk. Arnaud Démare is clearly only struggling his way to Paris, don’t expect to see FDJ on the front if they know what’s good for them. Sagan has green sewn up, along with most of his skin. He might not be motivated to sprint. That, for all intensive porpoises, leaves Alexander Kristoff’s UAE team to have a whale of a time on the front (Narrator: Conor had long abandoned all hopes of a serious preview, and was by this stage of the race just having fun with it). Now, if I wanted something to be done, I’d probably walk on up to the UAE team bus and ask them to on no account do it. There is no chance that UAE will run a sprint stage all on their lonesome. So instead, to me it looks like a breakaway day. Again, out of principle I’m not naming twenty-five equally plausible names. Instead you can have two: Daryl Impey is on a Michelton-Scott team which would like a bit of success out of this race and I fancy his chances, but not as much as I fancy those of (and boy would I look clever if this came off) Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg. I noticed that he took the lead for Dimension Data on stage thirteen, he’s a good sprinter if not so good that him getting into a break would spark fear in his companions. There’s a hipster pick for you.